WITH AN ARTIST EYE: IN THE CLOUDS AND ON THE DESERT FLOOR

There is one God looking down on us all. We are all children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say.  ~ Geronimo

July 9, 2011:  As far as states go in the southwestern U.S., New Mexico may be the most sparsely populated (only a little over 2 million with nearly half those in its largest city of Albuquerque).  One might thus think that there is little history of interest there.  But, it boasts the title of Billy the Kid Territory and is the home of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

If you are not familiar with the Mescalero Apache, let me help a little.

The lands of the Southwest belonged to the Mescalero hundreds of years before any white man ever set foot on this soil.  In fact, it was somewhere between 700 and 1000 years ago that the Apache came down from Canada.  They were nomadic hunters and warriors of epic expertise and freely roamed the southwest, ranging from Texas to Arizona and south into Mexico.  Their name comes from one of the main stays of their diet, the “mescal” plant.  In 1873 President Ulysses S. Grant rounded up the three bands of Apaches (Lipan, Chiricahua, and Mescalero) and formed The Mescalero Tribe.  Today the residents of the Mesacalero Reservation in the Sacramento Mountains of Southeast New Mexico are direct descendants of some of the most famous of Native Americans (namely, Cochise and Geronimo).

My latest New Mexico trip began very near there in the tourist village of Cloudcroft (well after my two hour drive from the El Paso airport).  And as I am discovering, exploring the world with an artist’s eye continues to reveal more subject matter than I expect.  Six thousand feet above the New Mexico desert floor (and usually 20 degrees cooler) Cloudcroft was established about a hundred years ago after the logging railroad between Alamogordo (20 miles down the mountain) and El Paso. The name Cloudcroft, literally in the clouds, is named after and English description of a clearing covered in clouds.  History abounds in this little village and I could have spent much more than a day or two exploring.

Inquiring visitors will be treated to stories of the James Canyon Cemetery, the Cowboy Church and the “Cloud Climbing Railroad.”

Today, Cloudcroft is home to many accomplished artists.  On this trip I met fine art photographer Teresa Hall (now a new FB friend).  Teresa does some very nice work. http://www.wildwindphotography.net/   I was also able to obtain the rights to some historical photographs of the mountain train (out of business since the advent of logging trucks), which I am sure I will use as reference for future artwork. http://cloudcroftmuseum.com/dnn/

In the last half-century of our country the advances in highway construction and air travel left many a small business and roadside attraction in shambles and dust.  New Mexico is no exception. The next leg of my trip took me down the mountain and across the desert floor to Las Cruces and the small community of La Mesilla.  At every turn and stop there was much to see and reflect on.

One can only imagine the stories that have been left behind in the rubble of the desert.  The artists of this country have done so well in telling these stories.  Many are held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

That is subject for another entry, but I have to mention that I did see this painting of historic Old Mesilla there on my last trip.

There is so much more that could be explored, written about and told through my art.  I hope I can keep on exploring, writing and making art.

I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

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3 Responses to WITH AN ARTIST EYE: IN THE CLOUDS AND ON THE DESERT FLOOR

  1. kbosborn says:

    Great story Ralph. I lived in Kingman, AZ for 6 years and love New Mexico. My son Travis played for the Saint Louis Cardinals in the minors and they played the Albuquerque Isotopes so I was able to see the desert from Kingman to Albuquerque including the Crater just outside of Flagstaff. I looooooooooooove the desert with it’s sunsets, rocks and history. I wish I could have experienced more of the little towns there too like you describe in this post.

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